Court Crushes FanX with Award of Attorneys Fees in SDCC Lawsuit

An incensed federal judge has done his best to make up what San Diego Comic-Con couldn’t get from a jury after winning its trademark infringement lawsuit against Salt Lake Comic Con, hammering the defendants with a trademark ban and an order to pay nearly $4 million of SDCC’s attorney fees and costs.

Last December, the federal jury ruled that Salt Lake Comic Con infringed on a trademark held by San Diego Comic-Con by using the words “comic con” in their name without permission. However, the jury did not award the $12 million in damages sought by San Diego Comic-Con, only $20,000, finding no willful infringement of the copyright by SLCC.

The Salt Lake Convention has since changed its name to FanX Salt Lake Comic Convention.

Judge Anthony J. Battaglia’s August 23 order scolded defendant Dan Farr Productions (DFP), run by Dan Farr and Bryan Brandenburg, as he justified the award of attorneys fees. An excerpt from the ruling quoted by Salt Lake City’s CBS station KUTV (see “San Diego Comic Con awarded nearly $4 million in ruling against FanX”) reads:

Battaglia chided DFP for ignoring court rulings, including making items marked “confidential” public, including on Twitter.

Part of what made the case exceptional in the judge’s decision was press releases and interviews DFP gave after getting a cease and desist letter from SDCC. Battaglia wrote:

“The Court’s analysis under this factor is best explained by quoting to Defendant Brandenburg himself. In a news article, Mr. Brandenburg explained his reaction to receiving SDCC’s cease and desist letter:

Our knee jerk reaction was that [SDCC was] trying to intimidate us” . . . “We were not going to cease and desist using the name. We decided to go public about it.” After consulting with their lawyers, the team behind the Salt Lake Comic Con knew they had strong legal ground to stand on, but they didn’t want to go to court, they wanted to win in the court of public opinion . . . “Everyone said that San Diego had no leg to stand on, but the only way to win this would be to outspend them on legal fees” … “Our strategy was, if we are going to spend legal fees vs. legal fees, we wanted to be creative. We put it out to the public, challenging the cease and desist letter publically.

“Refusing to cease and desist and turning to the media to litigate a trademark infringement case in the court of “public opinion” is objectively irrational,” the judge wrote while also explaining it didn’t seek to limit free speech.

“The Court finds that this case is not a dime a dozen. Instead, it is a trademark infringement lawsuit that stands out from others based on the unreasonable manner it was litigated and thus an award of attorneys’ fees and costs to SDCC is justified.”

Courthouse News hosts a PDF file of the court’s attorneys fees order.

San Diego wanted about $5 million in attorney’s fees and it will end up with 80 percent of the request.

The Hollywood Reporter’s article “Judge Issues ‘Comic-Con’ Injunction” says the court also put teeth in the jury verdict by forbidding the defendants from using “comic con” or anything that sounds like it:

Battaglia, in his order on an injunction, has enjoined Salt Lake from “Comic Con” and “Comic-Con” and any phonetic equivalents (i.e. ComiKon). Additionally, Farr and Brandenburg can’t operate any social media site that incorporates the trademark, nor can they even advertise how the festival they run was “formerly known as Salt Lake Comic Con.”

On the other hand, the judge rules it would go too far to prevent the phrase “comic convention” and won’t require defendants to destroy all of their already-made merchandise and marketing materials bearing the banned phrases.

The Hollywood Reporter opined that this “may be the beginning of the end of the road for any self-described ‘Comic-Con’ that doesn’t take place in San Diego.”

It’s important to note that San Diego has sued or asserted claims against others who operated “Comic-Cons” around the nation — and most of those cases were put on hold for this one. San Diego vs. Salt Lake was a test case.

Both sides in the SDCC/SLCC case had asked for a new trial, victor San Diego because they disputed the jury’s finding of non-willfulness and wanted more money. That, at least, the judge refused to grant, pointing to evidence that Brandenburg thought it was okay to use “Comic Con” because so many others were also doing it.

The defendants’ past statements indicated a desire to appeal the original verdict. Meanwhile Farr and company will be busy running FanX from September 6-8.

[Thanks to David Doering for the story.]

Pixel Scroll 6/5/18 Scroll Is A Pixel, And I Want My Money Back

Brian Keene. Photo by Scott Edelman.

(1) BRIAN KEENE BURN INJURY. Horror author and podcaster Brian Keene is hospitalized, reports Stephen Kozeniewski, who has started a “Brian Keene Burn Fund” at GoFundMe:

On June 5, 2018, author, podcaster, philanthropist, and father Brian Keene was badly burned in an accident.  At this time he is conscious and in good spirits but has first degree burns on his face and second degree burns on his body.

As a freelance author, Brian does not have health insurance.  We’re not sure at this time how long he’ll be in treatment, or how much the bill will be, but any visit to the hospital is expensive, and will only be compounded by lost wages from not being able to work.

We’re asking the community of writers, horror fans, and just decent human beings in general to chip in a few dollars to help get Brian back on his feet and spending time with his loving girlfriend and sons.  We’d be very grateful for anything you can afford to contribute.

The appeal has raised $14,415 of its $15,000 goal in the first four hours online.

Keene co-hosts of The Horror Show with Brian Keene. Last May, they held that 24-hour telethon and raised roughly $21,000 in support of Scares That Care.

Kozeniewski added in an update, “What we know right now is that the wind shifted while Brian was burning brush.”

(2) ALL YOUR COMIC CONVENTION ARE BELONG TO US. Those lovable knuckleheads who run San Diego Comic-Con International would like a federal judge to award them several million dollars in attorney fees after winning their lawsuit against the Salt Lake Comic Con. Courthouse News has the story: “San Diego Comic-Con: ‘Comic Convention’ Is Ours”.

…U.S. District Judge Anthony Battaglia heard a host of posttrial motions Thursday, including San Diego Comic-Con’s request for over $4.5 million in attorney fees which have already been paid in full.

San Diego Comic-Con attorney Callie Bjurstrom with Pillsbury Law told Battaglia Thursday he should find the case is “exceptional” so that attorney fees and costs can be awarded.

“This was a very expensive case; the reason this case was so expensive was because of defendants and their counsel and the way they litigated this case,” Bjurstrom said.

She pointed out Brandenburg testified at trial he knew about San Diego Comic-Con’s trademarks but still used “Comic Con” to name his Utah convention. Bjurstrom said the Salt Lake owners engaged in a “public intimidation campaign” once San Diego Comic-Con sent them a cease-and-desist letter to stop infringing the trademark and that Salt Lake’s attorneys filed meritless motions, “flip-flopped” on legal theories and violated court orders throughout the three-year litigation.

“If this case isn’t exceptional, I don’t know what is,” Bjurstrom said.

San Diego Comic-Con also asked Battaglia to permanently bar the Salt Lake convention from using its trademarks, arguing its reputation has been irreparably harmed by the confusion to consumers.

During the trial, San Diego Comic-Con presented evidence its attendees had contacted its employees about the Salt Lake convention, believing the two events were associated.

But San Diego Comic-Con’s request went a step further than simply asking Battaglia to enjoin the Salt Lake convention operators from infringing its trademarks: it asked the judge to bar the Salt Lake convention from using the words “comic convention” or phonetic equivalents to “Comic Con” or “comic convention.”

Bjurstrom said the injunction should include any spelling variation on “Comic Con” which is pronounced the same as the San Diego trademark, including spelling it with a “K” or “Kahn.”

“Whether you spell Comic Con with a ‘C’ or a ‘K’, it’s pronounced the same. It is exactly the same when you say it,” Bjurstrom said.

San Diego Comic-Con also asked the judge to order the Salt Lake operators to destroy marketing and advertising materials which make reference to “Comic Con” and to cease operating websites and social media accounts which reference the trademark.

Battaglia took the motions under submission and will issue a written order.

(3) WIKIPEDIA. Juliet McKenna asks “What can SFF fandom do about the inherent bias of Wikipedia?”. The author looked into the question because the Wikipedia entry about her was flagged for deletion, on grounds that she is not sufficiently notable:

It seems Wikipedia is aware of its systemic bias, as detailed in this article. Read this, and related pieces, and I imagine many of you will note, with the weary contempt of familiarity, the repeated insistence that it’s up to women themselves, and other under-represented groups to do all the hard work here. Though I haven’t found anything addressing the issue I raise above, explaining what we’re expected to do when sufficient acceptable citations simply do not exist, and those references that do exist are not deemed acceptable. Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

On the plus side, I have learned that there are dedicated groups of female and other special-interest Wikipedians spending considerable time and effort updating and expanding pages, intent on correcting this bias. Mind you, I also learned their work is frequently challenged and even undone by other Wikipedians applying the all too prevalent and far too often white western male logic of ‘not of interest to me personally = not of interest to anyone’. And of course, such challenges can very easily be a thinly veiled cover for actively discriminatory behaviour. Having read the Wikipedia page on handling tendentious editing, I am not in the least reassured that this is in any way satisfactorily addressed.

(4) LUCRATIVE SFF AUCTION. Fine Books & Collections was standing by the cash register: “Sci-fi from the Stanley Simon Estate Breaks Records in Swann Literature Auction”.

Science fiction ruled on May 15 at Swann Galleries’ auction of 19th & 20th Century Literature. Selections from the Estate of Stanley Simon, featuring 84 rare and first editions of cornerstones of the genre, boasted a 98% sell-through rate. All of the offered titles by Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, Philip K. Dick and Stephen King sold, with many achieving auction records.

Leading the pack was a signed first edition of Dick’s dystopian novel The Man in the High Castle, 1962, which was purchased by a collector for $10,400, above a high estimate of $6,000, a record for the work. Another record was achieved by a signed first edition of Ubik, 1969, at $5,500, while the auction debut of the rare galley proofs for Valis, 1981, reached $5,000.

Simon had acquired several uncorrected proofs of important works, none of which had previously appeared at auction. While not strictly science-fiction, material by Stephen King outperformed in this category. The highlight was the presentation copy of an uncorrected proof of The Stand, 1978, which sold to a collector for $9,100. Also available were one of apparently 28 copies of proofs of King’s The Shining, 1977, inscribed, which sold for five times its high estimate for $6,250, and the complete six-volume set of uncorrected proofs of King’s The Green Mile, 1996, exceeded its $1,200 high estimate to sell for $5,200.

Another highlight from the Simon estate was the complete Foundation trilogy, 1951-53, by Isaac Asimov. Together, the three signed first editions achieved an auction record of $9,750. Also by Asimov, a signed first edition of I, Robot, 1950, reached $6,250, above a high estimate of $3,500. Important editions of Ray Bradbury’s magnum opus Fahrenheit 451, 1953, were led by the limited author’s edition personally inscribed to Simon ($7,500). The popular asbestos-bound edition reached $5,200. All six editions offered were purchased….

(5) LE GUIN’S LAST EARTHSEA STORY. The Paris Review has a story by Ursula K. Le Guin. And not just any story, but a final Earthsea tale, written a year before her death. (So I’m guessing it’s the last one.)

He was thinking of Lookfar, abandoned long ago, beached on the sands of Selidor. Little of her would be left by now, a plank or two down in the sand maybe, a bit of driftwood on the western sea. As he drifted near sleep he began to remember sailing that little boat with Vetch, not on the western sea but eastward, past Far Toly, right out of the Archipelago. It was not a clear memory, because his mind had not been clear when he made that voyage, possessed by fear and blind determination, seeing nothing ahead of him but the shadow that had hunted him and that he pursued, the empty sea over which it had fled.

(6) BUMBLEE TRAILER. This movie will be in theaters at Christmas.

Every adventure has a beginning. Watch the official teaser trailer for Bumblebee, starring Hailee Steinfeld and John Cena.

 

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY PRODUCER

  • Born June 5, 1953 – Kathleen Kennedy

(8) IT’S A JUNGLE OUT THERE. Of possible interest to Sarah Gailey fans (because of a hippo reference) is this segment from the June 3 episode of HBO’s Last Week Tonight, on the subject of guardianship for the elderly. The relevant portion starts at about the 13:20 mark. That’s where John Oliver introduces a new PSA on the subject, starring several celebrities – including William Shatner.

(9) DOG DAYS. This perfect poem inspired a thread of deep appreciation for the artist…

(10) DINO APPRECIATION SUMMIT. Chuck Tingle and Jeff Goldblum had an internet encounter —

(11) WALL POLITICS. And they’ll make the schwein pay for it. (Oh, wait, that’s something else….) “Denmark backs fence on German border to keep out wild boar”.

Denmark’s parliament has voted to build a 68-km (42-mile) fence along the border with Germany in a bid to protect the pork industry from the spread of African swine fever.

The vote aimed at keeping out wild boar is controversial for several reasons.

Environmental campaigners doubt it will stop the animals entering Denmark, while others say Germany has no trace of the virus.

Some in Germany have condemned the move as gesture politics.

Work on constructing the fence is unlikely to start until autumn, after an assessment by Denmark’s environmental protection agency.

(12) MORE WALL POLITICS. Security décor from another era: “The 12 best posters from the very odd NSA archive”.

Long before it was at the centre of a huge spying scandal, the US National Security Agency had the communist threat to deal with – and wanted to make sure its staff did not spill secrets.

A vast archive of posters, apparently for display at the spy agency’s offices, has been posted online thanks to a freedom of information request from governmentattic.org.

The website asked for “a digital/electronic copy of the NSA old security posters from the 1950s and 1960s”, although confusingly it also got one featuring John Travolta.

Here are some of our favourites. The full, 139-page document, can be found here.

(13) CASTLE COCKY. More trademark hoo-hah: “Rapunzel, Rapunzel let down your trademark restrictions”.

Rapunzel, the long-haired maiden locked in a tower by an evil witch, has been immortalized in countless bedtime stories and adaptations, from the Brothers Grimm to Disney. There is even a teenage rapper who goes by the name RapUnzel.

Now, a private company wants to lock the princess’s name in a castle fortified by United States trademark law.

But this attempt to register the trademark for the name Rapunzel has unleashed fervent opposition, not from Hasbro or Mattel, but from an impassioned group of Suffolk University Law School professors and students.

(14) DINO DUBIOSITY. The BBC asks “Does Jurassic Park make scientific sense?” Can you guess the answer? I knew you could…

In 1993, Steven Spielberg’s film Jurassic Park defined dinosaurs for an entire generation.

It has been credited with inspiring a new era of palaeontology research.

But how much science was built into Jurassic Park, and do we now know more about its dinosaurs?

As its 25th anniversary approaches, visual effects specialist Phil Tippett and palaeontologist Steve Brusatte look back at the making of the film, and what we’ve learned since.

So, first of all, what did Jurassic Park get wrong? It started off by inheriting some complications from Michael Crichton’s novel, on which the film was based.

“I guess Cretaceous Park never had that same ring to it,” laughs Brusatte.

“Most of the dinosaurs are Cretaceous in age, that’s true.”

(15) SWEET WRITING. Cat Rambo tasted these chocolate bars for Green Man Review: “Chuao Chocolatier’s Chocolate Bars with All the Add-ins”.

Here in America we like our add-ins, ice cream and candy full of other candy, nuts, random sweets, and sometimes savories. Chuao (pronounced Chew-WOW) has a shelf-load of such, chocolate bars with all the goodies, created by Venezuelan chef Michael Antonorsi.

Most of the bars I tried were terrific but some are more successful than others. Idiosyncrasies of taste may make a difference; when I tweeted about the one I really disliked, someone mentioned that was their favorite, and bemoaned not being able to find it. And it’s not entirely fair to stack dark chocolate up against milk, particularly given that my sweet tooth resembles that of a six-year-old’s. Still, I present them in order of how much I liked them, from most to least.

First up, the “Baconluxious”. Described as “delicate maple sweetness, a sprinkle of bonfire smoked sea salt and crispy, uncured bacon in milk chocolate.” This had a nice aroma and when tasted, an immediate smoothness to its mouth feel, followed by a wash of saltiness and not-unpleasant grittiness before the final bacon note, leaving just a few salt crystals to be crunched between the tooth and savored. This was delicious to the point where I thought I would and then did readily pick one of these up again. And probably will again and again….

(16) A BOY AND HIS ROBO DOG. The AXL Official Trailer came out recently.

In the vein of classic ‘80s family movies SHORT CIRCUIT and FLIGHT OF THE NAVIGATOR, A.X.L. is a new adventure about a down-on-his luck teenage bike rider, Miles (Alex Neustaedter), who stumbles upon an advanced, robotic, military dog named A.X.L. Endowed with next-generation artificial intelligence but with the heart of a dog, A.X.L. forms an emotional bond with Miles, much to the chagrin of the rogue military scientists who created A.X.L. and would do anything to retrieve him. Knowing what is at stake if A.X.L. gets captured, Miles teams up with his smart, resourceful crush, Sara (Becky G), to protect his new best friend on a timeless, epic adventure for the whole family.

 

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Robin Reid, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Jonathan Cowie, Martin More Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, K.M.  Alexander, Rev. Bob, Dann, Mike Kennedy, Michael D. Toman, Carl Slaughter, Steve Johnson, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Stoic Cynic.]

Pixel Scroll 5/25/18 The Prospect Of Incontinent Hobgoblins

(1) FANX FLOUNDERS ON. How long will FanX’s Bryan Brandenburg’s “indefinite leave” be?

FanX’s other leader, Dan Farr, now has added his own statement and apology.

I, Dan Farr, apologize fully for any instances in which a participant has felt unsafe. We do not condone these behaviors, from anyone.

It is not our role or responsibility to judge any individual nor to disparage or use inflammatory language about any participant in our conference. It is our role to do all within our power to keep our participants safe. Our conversation with the author resulted in a mutual agreement that he will not be participating in our future events. With this agreement, we consider the matter resolved.

Additionally, my partner and cofounder, Bryan Brandenburg has made a personal and heartfelt apology for his remarks on social media that were insensitive about our attendees’ sexual harassment concerns.

However, continued postings in social media and the press have shown energy and anger to a level that Bryan has decided that his continued participation, for now, is a distraction from the goals we are striving to uphold.

Beginning immediately, Bryan Brandenburg is taking an executive leave that he hopes and believes will help to dispel the negative energy that is taking us away from our greater mission and goals. While he has not suggested a timeframe, this leave may not be permanent. We hope to see Bryan at our September event with his wife and new son.

As for Brandenburg stepping back from social media – well, he’s stepped back from where the public can see it, but he’s still busy posting – see the screencaps in this set of tweets.

Yesterday’s latest Salt Lake Tribune coverage quoted from one of the screencaps that showed Brandenburg justifying how FanX dealt with the Richard Evans harassment complaint:

The comments were later deleted, but not before screengrabs circulated on Twitter.

“We absolutely could not publicly ban [Evans],” Brandenburg wrote. “We had no proof. We would be sued for libel and defamation from Richard. Then it would get out that you would be banned and humiliated from FanX for kissing a guest on the cheek and touching her. We would be out of business. Nobody would care to read the details. We did not see it happen. It would be her word against his.”

Hale has questioned whether organizers attempted to talk to people who may have witnessed the interaction, and whether Brandenburg’s statement means that allegations won’t be looked into if they weren’t witnessed by FanX employees.

FanX’s new harassment policy promises that every report of harassment will be investigated.

Howard Tayler’s Twitter thread deconstructs the Brandenburg rationale, quoted in the Tribune. The thread starts here:

And includes these comments:

(2) OH, THE NONHUMANITY! Here’s an admirable idea for a listicle: “The 12 Most Gratuitous Robot Deaths in Sci-Fi” at Tor.com.

Sometimes it feels like robots only exist to be abused, you know? We love them and the window they provide on the human condition, but science fiction is usually pretty mean to them overall. It loves to torment robots (and when we say “robots” we’re really talking about any form of android or A.I. or sentient toaster or what-have-you) with the constant threat of obsolescence or deactivation or destruction. And some of these deaths are just plain gratuitous, leaving us betrayed, bewildered, and otherwise bereaved.

Here are the worst of them….

(3) MORE POOH. Here’s is Disney’s Christopher Robin Official Trailer. In theaters August 3.

In the heartwarming live action adventure Disney’s “Christopher Robin,” the young boy who shared countless adventures with his band of lovable stuffed animals in the Hundred Acre Wood is now grown up and living in London but he has lost his way. Now it is up to his childhood friends to venture into our world and help Christopher Robin rediscover the joys of family life, the value of friendship and to appreciate the simple pleasures in life once again.

 

(4) NEWSLETTER SIGNUP INCENTIVE. Get to know seven authors and fill a shelf with science fiction and fantasy — The SFF Grand Newsletter Giveaway is a chance to win a dozen signed books. The seven writers in this international group range from debut to established, and from near-future thrillers to high fantasy — Aliette de Bodard, SL Huang, Beth Cato, Kate Heartfield, Jim C. Hines, Kate Elliott, and JY Yang.

Between May 25 and June 25, readers can enter the giveaway once for each author, for up to seven entries. For each author, entrants will have the choice of subscribing to that author’s newsletter to enter (signing up for the newsletter is not required to be entered in the giveaway). Existing subscribers to an author’s newsletter can simply choose the giveaway-only option to receive an entry for that author.

The contest is open worldwide. One winner (chosen at random) will receive signed, physical copies of all the books:

  • The first three Tensorate novellas by JY Yang
  • The complete Court of Fives trilogy by Kate Elliott if the winner has a U.S. address, or a choice of one of the following by Kate Elliott if the winner has a non-U.S. address: Court of Fives, Cold Magic, Black Wolves, or Spirit Gate
  • Terminal Alliance by Jim C. Hines
  • Breath of Earth by Beth Cato
  • Zero Sum Game by SL Huang and The Little Homo Sapiens Scientist (novelette) by SL Huang
  • The Tea Master and the Detective and The House of Shattered Wings by Aliette de Bodard
  • Armed in Her Fashion and Alice Payne Arrives by Kate Heartfield

Everyone who uses this page to sign up for ANY of our newsletters before June 25 will be entered into the giveaway! You can enter once for each author, for up to 7 entries. From among ALL entries we’ll draw ONE lucky winner — who will receive SIGNED BOOKS from every one of us! A chance to win a dozen or more signed books — a whole shelf of new SFF!

(5) WRITER V. CHARACTER. Ian Sales, in “His master’s voice”, defends his criticism of a Clarke Award finalist.

So, a couple of days ago I tweeted a short quote from the book I was reading, one of this year’s Clarke Award finalists, and remarked that I was surprised to find the position expressed in the quote in a genre novel published in 2017. Most people who saw my tweet were as dismayed as I was – although, to be fair, they saw only my quote.

Which changes things. Apparently.

The book in question is Sea of Rust by C Robert Cargill, and the exact quote was “Gender is defined by genitalia”, which is spoken by the book’s narrator, Brittle, a robot, in a paragraph in which “she” admits that robots have no gender, it is not something “she” has ever thought about, but she henceforth chooses to define herself as female.

Two people I consider friends – very smart people both, and genre critics whose opinions I respect* – decided to insult my intelligence by questioning by understanding of how narrative works. Because the offending phrase – and it is offensive – was spoken by a character, they stated, that does not mean it reflects the author’s sensibilities. As another friend pointed out, I have myself written fiction featuring Nazis – and I have: ‘Wunderwaffe’ – but that obviously does not make me a Nazi. This is indeed true. Cargill has written a novel about robots, in which the first person narrator is a robot… but obviously he is not a robot himself. I never claimed this.

But the people arguing against my comment were themselves making the same assumption about me they were accusing myself of making against Cargill. Except, I think my position is backed up by the narrative.

…So yes, I do understand how narrative works. I also understand how writing works. And while I may not be as accomplished at writing as others… and I may place a higher value on narrative rigour than most people… I stand my original position:

Unless the narrative evidences a foundation for a sensibility or attitude, then it’s reasonable to assume it is a sensibility or attitude of the author that has leaked through into the narrative.

(6) MARY SHELLEY BIOPIC. NPR’s Mark Jenkins says “‘Mary Shelley’ Is Less Than The Sum Of Its Parts”

Given the familiarity of the material, the makers of Mary Shelley would have been smart to find a new approach. Philosophically, they sort of do, giving Mary more credit than usual for both her work and her choices.

Stylistically, though, the movie is all too typical of the 19th-century British literary/romantic drama. It presents London circa 1815 as misery for the poor, the young, the female, and the liberal-minded — and yet picturesque enough for a tourist brochure, suffused with dappled sun-, lamp- and candlelight and swathed in yearning music.

(7) BAIN OBIT. Meredith marks the passing of “John Bain, also known as TotalBiscuit, the Cynical Brit, who died yesterday after being diagnosed with inoperable cancer in 2015. He was a popular gaming YouTuber and started out by covering the World of Warcraft: Cataclysm expansion before moving on to wider coverage, including a lot of indie games. He championed games on the PC and was always honest about his opinions of games, beginning in a time when that was far less common.”

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • May 25, 1953 It Came From Outer Space appeared in theaters, a movie based on a story by Ray Bradbury.
  • May 25, 1977Star Wars premiered.
  • May 25, 1983Return of the Jedi opened in theaters.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY MUPPETEER

  • Born May 25, 1944 – Frank Oz

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Cat Eldridge says “I’ve had dozens of emails telling me about the organization and how it’s complying with GDPR.” And now Xkcd is getting in on the act.

(11) NATAL DAY. Steven H Silver celebrates: “Birthday Reviews: Vera Nazarian’s ‘Salmon in the Drain Pipe’” at Black Gate.

Nazarian was nominated for a WSFA Small Press Award for her short story “Port Custodial Blues” in 2007. The following year she received a nominated for the Nebula Award for Best Short Story for “The Story of Love.” She also received a Nebula nomination in 2009 for her novella The Duke in His Castle. In addition to writing, Nazarian has worked as the editor and publisher of Norilana Books since the company’s founding in 2006.

(12) KNOWS ALL, HEARS ALL, TELLS ALL. The Guardian asks “Alexa, when did the Church of England become so tech-savvy?”

The Amazon assistant can now help you with your Anglican needs. Just don’t expect answers to the really big questions…

Thomas Cranmer’s Book of Common Prayer was well ahead of its time when in 1549 it addressed “Almighty God, unto whom all hearts be opened, all desires known, and no secrets hid” – but it would take nearly five centuries for the church to turn this vision into technology. For now there is a Church of England “skill” – a set of canned responses – on , Amazon’s virtual assistant which can give its answer to 30 religious questions. It doesn’t answer the interesting ones though. “Alexa, ask the Church of England how can I be saved?” produces a silence easily interpreted as baffled, and I don’t think this is because the Church of England long ago decided that I couldn’t be….

(13) SFF IN THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD. Here’s another list to pick apart, BBC Culture’s “The 100 stories that shaped the world”. Homer’s Odyssey is number 1.

Chip Hitchcock celebrates that “SFF cracked the top 5,” and he tentatively identifies the stories with these rankings as SFF: 3, 4, 15, 16, 44, 67?, 71, 72, 73? 83?

(14) THEY WERE THERE. “How ancient DNA is transforming our view of the past” the “pots not people” (cultural exchange) view is giving way to knowledge that there were huge population shifts, e.g. Stonehenge builders disappearing under flood of Beaker People.

…Throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, studies of ancient DNA from our own species were highly contentious because of observations that skeletal remains were easily contaminated by the DNA of living people.

As such, there were always nagging doubts about whether a genetic sequence belonged to the long-dead individual being studied or to an archaeologist involved in excavating the remains, a museum curator who had handled them, or a visitor to the lab where they were being analysed.

However, crucial progress in overcoming these obstacles began in the late 90s with the effort to sequence DNA from Neanderthals, which was led by Professor Svante Pääbo at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany.

Pääbo’s group developed a set of protocols to prevent contamination slipping through, including having the same samples sequenced in two laboratories by different teams….

But the field experienced a revolution with the emergence of so-called next-generation sequencing technology. When an organism dies, the DNA in its cells begins to break down – over time it splits into smaller and smaller chunks, as well as accumulating other forms of damage.

It also gets contaminated with vast amounts of microbial DNA from the wider environment. The new sequencing machines could be used to isolate the human genetic material from bacterial DNA and then stitch together the tiny fragments into a readable sequence….

(15) ROADBLOCK. Traffic came to a standstill when….

(16) SFWA GAME CHAT. The inaugural episode of SFWA Game Chat aired this week on YouTube, hosted by Cat Rambo with Monica Valentinelli.

Did you know that SFWA now admits science fiction and fantasy game writers? Cat Rambo introduces a new show that discusses sci-fi/fantasy game writing!

 

(17) GAMING PIONEER. The Great Big Story has released a piece on the woman behind the design of the early 80’s text-based computer/adventure game, The Hobbit. Veronika Megler fell out of contact with the company that developed the game and went for many years without knowing how successful it was and how many lives it touched: “The Hunt for ‘The Hobbit’s’ Missing Hero”.

The six and a half minute video is great and the story of how (now) Dr. Megler has seized upon the lasting power of the game to help address gender balance in computer science is affecting.

 

(18) NOT AGENT 86. Missed out on this shoephone revival:

T-Mobile’s Sidekick gets a remake! Inspired by the past but stepping boldly into the future, it has revolutionary AI, headphones that double as chargers, personalized GPS guidance by John Legere, and more!

 

(19) SECOND OPINION. NPR’s Justin Chang calls Solo “A High-Speed, Low-Energy Intergalactic Heist”:

It was a good sign when Alden Ehrenreich, the terrific young actor from “Tetro” and “Hail, Caesar!” was cast as Han and also when Phil Lord and Chris Miller, the merry comic daredevils behind “The Lego Movie” and “21 Jump Street,” were hired to direct. But then Lord and Miller were fired last year due to apparently irreconcilable creative differences. And you could sense the iron will of Lucasfilm asserting itself. God forbid anyone should try to inject a little wit or personality into this surefire cash cow.

The directors were replaced by the much more risk-averse Ron Howard. And as a consequence, what might have once been a fresh and funny tour de force has devolved into bland, impersonal hackwork.

(20) CANTINA CHOW. Extra Crispy’s Tim Nelson was not impressed with the Solo/Denny’s promotional campaign, launched in April, that included trading cards and (not so) special menu items.

In Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, Obi Wan Kenobi warns Luke Skywalker that “you will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy” than Mos Eiseley, home to the cantina where viewers first meet smuggler and scoundrel Han Solo. It’s also a fitting way to describe any Denny’s located within stumbling distance of a bar after 11 p.m.

…With proceeds from trading card purchases going to help fund nonprofit organization No Kid Hungry, the whole thing seems inoffensive enough. But if some leaked information posted on a Star Wars forum is true, some of the Solo-themed menu items seem a bit silly.

There’s the “lightspeed slam,” a healthy dish that looks more like something from a depressed nutritionist’s Instagram than a meal fit for the Star Wars universe. While Denny’s earns some points for the inclusion of “Crystal Crunch Rocks” in a milkshake and a stack of pancakes, that looks to be the closest the menu gets to anything outside the universe of the diner chain’s typical fare.

As with past Star Wars-food tie-ins, one has to wonder what purpose putting ghost pepper sauce on a bacon cheeseburger and passing it off as something Han Solo might eat ultimately serves. Why not at least serve pancakes shaped like Chewbacca’s face?

(21) NO RECIPE FOR SUCCESS? Mad Genius Club’s Peter Grant made the point that “Writing books is not like frying shrimp”, inspired by the hilarious commercial linked below.

Trouble is, some new entrants into the book-writing and -publishing business think that their ambitions can be realized in a very similar fashion.  Just set up everything, add pre-set ingredients according to some arcane recipe, strike a spark, and voila!  It’s done!

 

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, Meredith, Chip Hitchcock, SL Huang, Cat Eldridge, Carl Slaughter, JJ, IanP, and Daniel Dern for some of these stories, Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Elisa.]

Pixel Scroll 5/24/18 Filenheit 770

(1) LEAVE OF ABSENCE FOR FANX’S BRANDENBURG. Salt Lake City’s Fox13 news has been told “FanX co-founder Bryan Brandenburg stepping aside amid criticism of handling of harassment complaint”.

Salt Lake City FanX co-founder Bryan Brandenburg is stepping aside in response to criticism of his handling of a report of harassment.

Brandenburg told Fox 13 News Thursday he is taking an “immediate and indefinite” leave of absence.

He said he wants his decision to step down from the convention to show the women who have complained that he has heard their complaints. He said it was a hard decision to leave the company he founded with Dan Farr in 2013, but he would rather step aside so that the fan base can thrive.

Brandenburg told a Good4Utah reporter (ABC-TV):

“If it takes me walking away, to see something survive, it’s my baby. And I would rather see it thrive than to have it go through the trauma that it’s going through now,” said Brandenburg.

Brandenburg said he was saddened by all of the divisiveness this caused within his organization.

He said he didn’t want to distract from FanX which is why he’s taking that extended leave of absence.

Today’s TV interviews indicate a definite break, in contrast to superficial changes shared by con organizers in yesterday’s Salt Lake Tribune story “After sexual-harassment controversy, FanX says its founders are stepping back and it will donate to Time’s Up” which had only said Dan Farr and Bryan Brandenburg were stepping back from social media. (Indeed, Brandenburg’s Facebook page is now offline.) The Tribune  reported further defections among FanX guests and vendors:

With authors, celebrities and a major publishing house saying they will pull out of FanX Salt Lake Comic Convention over its insensitive response to sexual-harassment accusations, organizers say they will donate an unspecified amount to the Time’s Up campaign and reduce the public role of co-founders Bryan Brandenburg and Dan Farr.

Brandenburg set off a firestorm on social media this week by posting about best-selling Utah author Shannon Hale, who was questioning FanX’s handling of a sexual-harassment accusation against Utah author Richard Paul Evans.

Without contacting Hale, FanX social media manager Manda Bull posted Tuesday that the convention was inviting her to join a new committee to improve its recently revised anti-harassment policy. The author said Wednesday she’s not interested.

…Since Monday’s dust-up, two celebrities booked for FanX — Lindsay Jones and Arryn Zech, voice actors on the popular anime-style web series “RWBY” — have canceled their appearances. Several authors, showing solidarity with Hale, also have said they will skip the convention.

On Tuesday, one of Utah’s biggest publishing houses — Shadow Mountain Publishing, an imprint run by LDS Church-owned Deseret Book — ended its association with FanX.

…It was the Shadow Mountain booth where, according to a complaint filed with event organizers, Evans harassed a woman at last September’s convention. The woman told FanX in a written account that Evans “touched me several times and went so far as to kiss my cheek. I had never met him before … but he made me very uncomfortable and even said, ‘You’re so pretty’ after he touched me, as though he couldn’t help himself.”

In an interview that aired Tuesday on KUTV-Channel 2, Evans told reporter Chris Jones that “there is a war on men, and that men — white men in particular — are under attack, oppressed by a changing culture, victims of an extremist feminist agenda.” Evans compared the plight of white men in America to “Jews in Nazi Germany.”

(2) EYE PROBLEM. Larry Niven will miss Balticon 52, where he was scheduled to be Author Special Guest. The convention announced the news on its website

Larry Niven will be unable to attend Balticon this year:

We are sorry to report that at the last minute Larry Niven developed a problem that will prevent him from traveling to Baltimore and attending Balticon 52. He suffered a minor complication from a recent eye procedure and lthough is readily reparable it needs to be fixed soon and will require a week or so of bed rest. Riding in a pressurized aircraft is not a good plan at the moment as it could cause his retinas to go all retrograde. He sends his regrets, and we send our best wishes for a speedy recovery.

(3) PACKET IS COMING. Worldcon 76 knows you’re waiting: “Hugo Voter Packet News”.

The Worldcon 76 Hugo Team are working on testing the Hugo Voter Packet and expect to have it online shortly, within the next few days.

The Hugo Voter Packet is a collection of finalist works for the 2018 Hugo Awards and 1943 Retrospective Hugo Awards, made available to members of Worldcon 76 to better allow voters to make their decisions when voting on the Hugo Awards. Finalists’ works that appear in the Hugo Award Packet appear through the courtesy of the finalists, publishers, and rights-holders. Not all finalists will be in the Packet.

(4) COPYEDITOR’S CORNER. Is it just me? I find the wording of this headline troubling. It probably wasn’t written by the author of the article itself who knows how to make her points.

For decades, the field of fantasy books was dominated by white men penning tales about dwarfs, elves, and other Norse-based mythology. Today, that’s changing as diverse writers are bringing fresh voices to the field, incorporating the myths and legends of cultures around the world. “People have been trying to do this for decades,” says author Tomi Adeyemi. “It’s just that enough people have broken down the doors over the decades that we’re where we are now.” Certainly, speculative fiction writers since at least Octavia Butler, the first science fiction writer to win a MacArthur Grant, have looked beyond Europe for inspiration. But no longer can they be dismissed as niche. From the $1 billion-plus box-office take of “Black Panther,” directed by Ryan Coogler, to the success of Ms. Adeyemi’s breakout debut, “Children of Blood and Bone,” audiences and readers are flocking to well-drawn worlds inspired by African and Asian countries. As one science fiction professor says, “We are not the field that thinks that what white men say is the only way to say things.”

(5) SALVAGE. When Luke Skywalker destroyed the Death Star, did you think the whole thing vanished into its component atoms? Not so! Cnet brings word: “Chunk of original Star Wars Death Star goes for sale on eBay”

…Get started on your very own Death Star by picking up a prop piece of the original ship from Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope on eBay.

…Most of the pieces ended up in a landfill, but an anonymous former ILM employee grabbed this particular panel and kept it safe for decades.

… The panel measures nearly 24 inches (61 centimeters) long and “every inch of the piece has complex modeling used to create the raised elevations and valleys of the Death Star.”

The eBay auction from Hollywood Memorabilia on Thursday, timed to coincide with the weekend release of the Han Solo origin movie Solo: A Star Wars Story. The Death Star chunk is expected to bring six figures in US dollars.

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • May 24, 2008 — The sci-fi musical Christmas On Mars premiered.

(7) COMICS SECTION.

  • John King Tarpinian discovered evolution in action at Non Sequitur.

(8) CONVENTION TOOL. A feature at this year’s Confab —

(9) DOWN TO THE WIRE. One of Minnesota’s best-known conventions announced they are being squeezed in hotel negotiations and haven’t secured the DoubleTree Hotel for this July’s con, although they hope to. Lawyers are at work: “CONvergence 2018 Timing Update—Please Bear With Us”.

Dear CONvergence Members,

We wanted to make you aware of some ongoing negotiations regarding this year’s convention. Over the past year, the Board has been in conversation with the DoubleTree Hotel regarding the arrangements and logistics for CONvergence 2018. The hotel has put forth several demands regarding the practices and procedures of the convention. The Board has been negotiating with the DoubleTree regarding which demands we feel are reasonable and which are not. The Board’s main objective is to preserve and provide the best experience for our members.

Unfortunately, these negotiations have gone on longer than we had hoped and have not yet reached resolution. We do currently anticipate being able to hold this year’s convention on time, but must resolve these outstanding issues first. Because of these negotiations, we’ve had to delay some of our normal processes, including room reservations. We are working hard to bring everything to resolution as soon as possible and will keep you updated as quickly as we can, but due to the nature of the negotiations and on advice of counsel we can’t discuss in full detail. We appreciate your understanding.

For now, let’s continue to build those costumes, launch those campaigns, and get ready for the 20th year of CONvergence!

(10) GRRM MOVIE PROJECT ANNOUNCED. “George R.R. Martin’s ‘The Ice Dragon’ to Get the Animated Movie Treatment”The Hollywood Reporter has the story.

Martin’s children’s fantasy novel, The Ice Dragon, has been picked up by Warner Animation Group to be adapted for the big screen, The Hollywood Reporter has confirmed.

The writer will be actively involved with the project, acting as a producer. There is even a possibility he will take a crack at penning the script, although that is still to be determined (and will undoubtedly scare GoT fans who are awaiting him to finish the latest, long-in-the-works and who knows when it will come out novel).

(11) THE EXISTENCE OF YOUR BANE. Gizmodo’s take on this invention begins: “Hello, You’ve Reached Gotham’s Reckoning. How May I Direct Your Call?”

How many times has this happened to you? You’re trying to organize the destruction of a major metropolitan area and the overthrow of a system you view as irredeemably corrupt, but you keep having to step out of the office to take a call. That problem is no more thanks to Bloxvox, the voice muffling muzzle that lets you plot to fulfill Ra’s al Ghul’s destiny from the comfort of your desk.

The actual item is a “voice privacy tool” that’s supposed to let you make private phone calls in public place.

A new Kickstarter seeks money to develop Bloxvox — a Bane-like mask that’s supposed to let you make private phone calls in public places (think open-plan offices, airports, etc.). At this writing, the Kickstarter is approaching $2000 out of a $25,000 goal; that amount raised from a mere 15 backers. The device allows you to insert the microphone part of your earbuds into the mask, providing some level of voice muffling for your office mates (or the other people in the coffee shop or what have you) but none for the microphone. A head strap holds the mask in place while a hole in the front “allows you to breathe, while letting minimal sound escape.” A soft seal around your mouth is said to “[create] a comfortable fit and voice-blocking seal against your face.”

(12) WATCHMEN CASTING. Here are the players – but who they’re going to play is still a secret: “‘Watchmen’: Regina King, Don Johnson, Tim Blake Nelson to Star in Damon Lindelof’s HBO Pilot”.

Watchmen, Damon Lindelof and HBO have announced the star-studded cast of the drama pilot take on Alan Moore’s beloved comic series.

The Leftovers grad Regina King will reunite with Lindelof on the HBO pilot and lead a cast that includes Don Johnson (Miami Vice), Tim Blake Nelson (O Brother, Where Art Thou?), Louis Gossett Jr. (An Officer and a Gentleman), Adelaide Clemens (Rectify) and Andrew Howard (Hatfields & McCoys).

Details about their respective characters are being kept under wraps.

(13) HE’S WHO? You can watch Dr. Michael Keaton’s complete Kent State University commencement address, or skip ahead to the genre-related peroration at about the 18:00 mark.

(14) NOT JUST HANGING AROUND. A teenager dressed as Spider-man, dropped out of a window upside down, and asked his girlfriend out to the prom. Insider says “It’s the most extra thing we’ve seen today”.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Daniel Dern, JJ, Steven H Silver, Martin Morse Wooster, Andrew, David Doering, Chip Hitchcock, David Doering, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kip W.]

Pixel Scroll 5/21/18 And The Book Recs, They Grow Just Like Lava Flows

(1) IT’S ALIVE! The Hollywood Reporter says “‘The Expanse’ Revived for Season 4 at Amazon”.

Amazon Studios is in talks to revive one of CEO Jeff Bezos’ favorite properties.

The retailer and streaming outlet is near a deal to revive space drama The Expanse for a fourth season just 10 days after Syfy canceled the series. Amazon Studios declined comment as sources note the deal is not closed.

Starring Steven Strait and based on James S.A. Comedy’s [sic] best-selling book series of the same name, Syfy had only first-run linear rights in the U.S. to The Expanse. Amazon Studios had streaming rights to the first three seasons of the show. Sources say Bezos is a big fan of the book and was livid that the TV series went to NBCUniversal-owned Syfy. The move is said to have ignited Bezos’ demand that Amazon Studios brass find the company’s version of Game of Thrones.

(2) FLYNN STROKE. Author Michael Flynn is hospitalized. His daughter made the announcement on Facebook:

Hi. This is Mike’s daughter. He will be absent from the internet for a few days, as he has had a pontine stroke and is in the hospital. After that, he’ll be going to rehab for a few days. He’s doing very well, all things considered. He’s eating a sandwich right now and has previously cracked some ill-advised “dad jokes” with the doctors and nurses.

Pontine stroke, described:

Pontine stroke is a type of stroke that happens when the blood flow in the brain stem is disrupted. The stroke is caused by decrease blood supply to brain stem. The blood flow is restricted to brain stem because of either rupture of blood vessels causing bleeding (hemorrhagic stroke) or obstruction of blood flow because of blood clot within the artery resulting in obstruction of blood supply (ischemic stroke).

(3) SUPPORT FOR ANTIHARASSMENT POLICIES. The Utah-based Rock Canyon Writers group of YA authors calls on writers to sign their “Conference Harassment Pledge”.

It has become increasingly clear that we must face the problems of sexual harassment and other kinds of harassment (racial, disability, sexual/gender identity, religion, nationalism, and more) that are happening within our own children’s literature community. We acknowledge that this is a systemic problem, and that systems of power are very difficult to change. They are also difficult
to see, but we must start to see the ways in which we are all implicated in looking away from uncomfortable talk about those we have once looked up to within the community. We cannot change this problem until we see it and face it
plainly. We must start thinking differently, intervening more quickly, believing victims more easily, and allowing excuses less readily. We cannot allow harassers to continue to act freely and without consequence, nor can we allow victims to be ignored, revictimized, or minimized. Nor can we continue a “whisper network” of knowledge that only helps those who are “in the know.”

… We plead with writers to cosign this document and to pledge NOT to attend conferences where there is no policy in place or where stated policies have not been followed through on.

(4) DOGWHISTLES FOR AI. “Alexa and Siri Can Hear This Hidden Command. You Can’t.” The New York Times has the story.

Many people have grown accustomed to talking to their smart devices, asking them to read a text, play a song or set an alarm. But someone else might be secretly talking to them, too.

Over the last two years, researchers in China and the United States have begun demonstrating that they can send hidden commands that are undetectable to the human ear to Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s Assistant. Inside university labs, the researchers have been able to secretly activate the artificial intelligence systems on smartphones and smart speakers, making them dial phone numbers or open websites. In the wrong hands, the technology could be used to unlock doors, wire money or buy stuff online — simply with music playing over the radio.

A group of students from University of California, Berkeley, and Georgetown University showed in 2016 that they could hide commands in white noise played over loudspeakers and through YouTube videos to get smart devices to turn on airplane mode or open a website.

This month, some of those Berkeley researchers published a research paper that went further, saying they could embed commands directly into recordings of music or spoken text. So while a human listener hears someone talking or an orchestra playing, Amazon’s Echo speaker might hear an instruction to add something to your shopping list.

The way Walter Jon Williams puts it is:

Of course you knew that when you installed Alexa, Siri, or Google’s Assistant in your home, you were installing a spy.  You just trusted that Amazon, Apple, or Google would use your information for good, or at least would not actively harm you.

What you may not have known is that these assistants aren’t just spies, they’re potential enemy saboteurs.

(5) FOCUS ON THE DONUT NOT THE HOLE. Scott Edelman calls on everyone to “Relive Nebula Awards weekends past and present in the third lightning-round episode of Eating the Fantastic”.

In 2016, Eating the Fantastic brought you the Readercon Donut Spectacular.

In 2017, you were invited to partake of the Balticon Donut Extravaganza.

And now, in Episode 67, it’s time to experience—the Nebula Awards Donut Jamboree!

That’s right—it’s time for another lightning-round episode of Eating the Fantastic as 15 guests devour a tasty dozen—this time from Pittsburgh’s Just Good Donuts— while recounting their favorite Nebula Awards memories.

During the Nebula Awards weekend which ended yesterday, I sat near registration with a dozen donuts and a sign offering a free one to any who’d come on the show to chat about their memories of this annual event, and waited to see what would happen.

Which is how I ended up listening as Michael Swanwick explained how his love of Isaac Asimov impelled him to walk out on guest speaker Newt Gingrich, David D. Levine remembered catching the penultimate Space Shuttle launch, Daryl Gregory recalled the compliment which caused him to get yelled at by Harlan Ellison, Barry Goldblatt revealed what cabdrivers do when they find out he’s an agent, Cat Rambo put in a pitch for SFFWA membership, Fran Wilde confessed a moment of squee which was also a moment of ooops, Steven H. Silver shared how he caused Anne McCaffrey to receive a Pern threadfall, Annalee Flower Horne told of the time John Hodgman stood up for her onstage during the awards banquet, and much, much more!

(6) COMICS SECTION.

  • Lise Andreasen says Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal’s “Responsible” makes it clear: “We’re doomed.”

(7) COMIC-CON LITIGATION. Bryan Brandenburg, of the now-renamed FanX Salt Lake Comic Convention, told Facebook readers about the con’s next legal move:

If the San Diego Comic Convention vs Salt Lake Comic Con jury trial was the Empire Strikes Back, this marks Act I of Return of the Jedi. Dan Farr Productions has filed a motion for a new trial, which will likely lead to our appeal with the U.S. Court Of Appeals, Ninth Circuit.

(8) HITTING THE BRICKS. Newsweek has pictures: “Lego Superheroes: Batman, Superman and Other DC Comics Characters Made of Over Two Million Bricks”.

American artist Nathan Sawaya’s captivates crowds around the world with his life-size sculptures of DC Comics’ most famous characters, building them with Lego bricks. His latest exhibition features over 100 sculptures, with some taking as long as two or three weeks to make. Besides patience, they require a lot of Lego. His recreation of the Batmobile is 18 feet long and uses around half a million bricks.

Sawaya was originally working as a corporate lawyer when he decided to turn to Lego as his creative outlet. “Some people go to the gym or go running at the end of the day; for me, I needed to create something,” he explained in a recent interview. Now he owns an art studio in Los Angeles housing over 7 million bricks.

(9) CAN YOU DIG IT? James Davis Nicoll is out to save the world: “Tugging on Superman’s Cape: Simple Suggestions for Avoiding World-Destroying Disaster. Or Not.”

There are, I think, a few basic safety rules which, if consistently ignored, will almost always provide would-be adventurers with sufficient diversion to create an exciting plot.

Rule number one: do not engage in archaeology. Do not fund archaeology. Above all, do not free that which has been carefully entombed. In most SF and fantasy settings, there were good reasons for entombment…and they still hold.

Indiana Jones did not manage to keep the Nazis from grabbing the Ark of the Covenant. No, the Ark protected itself. As you can see…

(10) THE THRILLING POO OF YESTERYEAR. NPR has the story: “DNA Analysis Of Ancient Excrement Reveals The Diets Of Centuries Past”.

When it comes to the nitty, gritty details, life in antiquity was pretty stinky – in a literal sense. Without high food and personal hygienic standards, most people probably contracted an intestinal worm at some point or another, says veterinary scientist Martin Søe. “I think it’s fair to say it was very, very common. In places with low hygienic standards, you still have a lot of whipworm and round worm.”

That also means lots of parasitic eggs dumped into latrines through the years. In a scientist like Søe’s eyes, that’s a historical record of what people ate and what ailed their guts. So he and his colleagues at the University of Copenhagen and Aarhus University began exhuming ancient excrement from toilets of yore to reconstruct snapshots of food and health in bygone centuries.

(11) CROWDED NEIGHBORHOOD. At the time E.E. Smith wrote the Lensman series, the odds against this were supposed to be, ah, astronomical: “‘Ground-breaking’ galaxy collision detected”.

Star nurseries

Known as starburst galaxies, the objects are extremely bright as they are forming stars at a high rate – up to 1,000 times as fast as the Milky Way.

Professor Caitlin Casey, who was not involved in the study, described the findings as “extremely unusual.”

“We often get excited when we find just two galaxies like this grouped together, because each one is already quite unusual and rare compared to ‘normal galaxies’, forming stars several hundreds or thousands of times faster than the Milky Way. To find fourteen such starbursts all grouped together is unheard of,” the University of Texas at Austin researcher commented.

(12) ARTFUL POSER. Science Alert finds “The Official Picard Facepalm Bust Makes Daily Life Less Futile”. ThinkGeek has produced a $65 limited-edition 6-inch Picard facepalm bust, with only 1602 said to be available. Bad news – the ThinkGeek website already shows it as Out of Stock.

ThinkGeek has the perfect salve for every Trekkies effort to resist the workplace grind. An official 6-inch bust of Jean-Luc Picard in his notorious, glorious facepalm pose.

There are so many moments in life where a glance toward Picard would be just what you need to take the edge off life’s less than stellar moments.

But, here’s the bad news. It’s a limited edition. Only 1602 people will be able to get their hands on this official merchandise.

…At US$64.99 it’s a little more than joke gift territory, but ThinkGeek has limited the bust to two per customer, so they know this thing will sell out fast.

Make it so. Before it’s too late.

(13) SING ME A SONG. Rev. Bob broke out a filk to wide applause in today’s comments:

The File 770 Rag

It’s file o’clock on a Caturday
My mailbox just sounded a chime
Mike’s news for fans is awaiting me
Today’s Pixel Scroll’s here right on time!

There’s a dozen or two short news items there
Plus a couple of odd videos
A comic or two and a birthday or three
And maybe some blog links – who knows?

Pixels keep scrollin’ on
And comments keep rollin’ along…

Scroll us some pixels, Seven-Seventy
Serve up the news tonight
You’re the place that we go to be “in the know”
And the comments will roll in all night

Now Meredith’s cruising an ebook site
To tell us which books are priced right
But it seems that her dragon
Is blockin’ my wagon
So I’ll probably be here all night

I see movement – there, in a dark corner
They’re probably the shy lurker type
Far away, I may hear puppies baying now
But I’m not buying into their hype.

Oh, pixels keep scrollin’ on
And comments keep rollin’ along…

Well, Kendall scored fifth ‘fore I hit the end
With Hampus in second-fifth place
Sometime Soon Lee will appear
Followed by Paul Weimer
As Stoic and Chip up the pace.

Damn, I can’t read this verse for the life o’ me
But not ’cause I’m blind, drunk or mean
No, JJ said it was too spoilery
And encoded it in ROT13.

Fpebyy hf fbzr cvkryf, Frira-Friragl
Freir hc gur arjf gbavtug
Lbh’er gur cynpr gung jr tb gb or “va gur xabj”
Naq gur pbzzragf jvyy ebyy va nyy avtug

The discussion’s still rolling on Caturday
Camestros and Tim just arrived
Lis, Jon, Andrew, Ctein,
James, Bruce, others most fine,
Ding! A new Pixel Scroll just arrived!

And the book recs, they grow just like lava flows
As Mt. Tsundoku’s slopes reach the skies
And my bank account weeps as my rent money creeps
Into publishers’ pockets – b’bye!

Oh, pixels keep scrollin’ on
And comments keep rollin’ along…

Scroll us some pixels, Seven-Seventy
Serve up the news tonight
You’re the place that we go to be “in the know”
And the comments will roll in all night

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Steven H Silver, James Davis Nicoll, Mike Kennedy, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock Martin Morse Wooster, ULTRAGOTHA, Lise Andreasen, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories, Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Rev. Bob.]

FanX Salt Lake Comic Convention Sharply Criticized for Handling of Anti-harassment Complaint

Best-selling author Shannon Hale (Princess Academy, Ever After High) received wide support today when she said on Twitter that FanX Salt Lake Comic Convention violated her privacy by posting a message she had sent them that included her email address.

Here is a screencap of the convention’s tweet (with the email address blacked out).

The Salt Lake Tribune has been following the original harassment complaint story for the past few weeks. They reported on May 6, “After complaint, Utah author Richard Paul Evans is among many reflecting on when and how to hug”. However, they soon learned Evans and unnamed others had been dropped as guests (May 8): “Utah author Richard Paul Evans among guests not invited back to FanX, as convention faces pressure to write anti-harassment policy”

Several celebrity guests, including Utah author Richard Paul Evans, won’t be invited back to FanX Salt Lake Comic Convention in September, as event organizers deal with accusations of sexual harassment at past conventions.

FanX officials sent an email Tuesday to members of an authors’ group, telling them the convention is updating its harassment polices and has decided “to not invite back at this time several guests,” The Salt Lake Tribune has learned. The writers have posted an online petition demanding a firm policy against harassment.

FanX co-founders Dan Farr and Bryan Brandenburg posted a modified version of the email on a private Facebook group for the event’s regular panelists. Once they have received input from panelists, the organizers said, they plan to post an updated harassment policy publicly. FanX has acknowledged its policy focuses on attendees, and not celebrities and panelists.

The Facebook message does not mention that anyone would not be invited back for panels, book signings or other convention events.

“Generally, there are some people who are not coming back, whether it was a mutual decision or whether we’ve decided not to have them back,” Farr said Tuesday. “We don’t maintain a blacklist, or anything like that.”

When asked if FanX is investigating accusations of harassment, Farr replied, “We’re always reviewing information as it comes in.”

The email sent to the authors said FanX is creating a committee to “further investigate any allegations,” and said it has been looking into “specific issues” since its last show.

Though FanX will not discuss specific cases, Farr said one person who has agreed to stay away this fall is Evans, known for such sentimental tales as “The Christmas Box” and the science-fiction “Michael Vey” series. Evans has been accused of inappropriate behavior after a panel at last September’s Salt Lake Comic Con (now called FanX). A woman complained to FanX officials, but has not made her name public.

While the press developed the story about the complaint and the way it was being handled, the convention organizers announced a new “FanX® Salt Lake Comic Convention™ Anti-Harassment Policy”.

However, convention co-founder Bryan Brandenburg reacted to the pressure by making the unguarded remarks to author Hale quoted above.

The Salt Lake Tribune summarized the exchange — “A popular Utah author criticized how FanX has responded to harassment complaints. It invited her to ‘sit this one out’ and published her private email.”.

Best-selling author Shannon Hale and other writers, troubled by how FanX organizers have reacted to allegations that a recurring guest repeatedly touched a female author without her consent, have been considering whether to appear at the convention in September. On Monday, Hale wrote to co-founder Bryan Brandenburg about her continuing doubts.

Brandenburg responded in part: “Maybe it is best that you sit this one out and then wait to hear how it went. I don’t think there is anything we can say to convince you to come and quite frankly I’m not willing to try. I know in my heart that we take this seriously and I don’t think you get it. I have four daughters and I’ve been sensitive to these issues for decades, long before it became trendy with #metoo.”

Hale took a screenshot of the reply and posted it to Twitter, where it drew dozens of furious responses — further fueling debate over the convention’s attempts to develop and promote a new anti-harassment policy while defending what Brandenburg describes as a fun environment of touch.

“John Barrowman will gladly hold your buttocks in your Photo Op. … Stephen Amell will hug you tight at his signing booth,” he assured fans on Facebook last week, while sharing the new policy.

By changing the subject to touch explicitly requested by fans, Hale said, FanX organizers are blurring the conversation about consent and minimizing women’s experiences of harassment. FanX should work on building a culture that gives guests confidence that harassment is not tolerated — but it’s doing the opposite, she said.

On Monday, FanX’s official account tweeted an image of the email Hale had sent to them, including her private email address. It later deleted the post.

Another good resource for this story is Ally Condie’s Twitter thread, which includes analysis, screencaps, and links to articles. The thread starts here:

Her thread includes these comments:

Bryan Brandenburg has now posted an apology on Facebook (May 21):

Public Apology:

I made multiple mistakes in handling the report of harassment at our event. I was insensitive to people that were communicating to me about this issue. It was me and me alone that responded to one of the people involved and I handled it terribly. I am so sorry. I wish I could take it back but I can’t. I was wrong, I made more than one mistake, and it was a very painful lesson. I’m ashamed that I didn’t handle it better and I hope that I can be forgiven. I’m so sorry that I came across like I did. Please forgive me.

All day authors have been tweeting support for Shannon Hale. (Most of these are Twitter threads which can be accessed by clicking on the timestamp.)

Utah author Howard Tayler supports the grievances:

Justine Larbalestier empathized —

Author Brendan Reichs opined that the convention had failed to live up to the confidentiality promised by its new anti-harassment policy.

The section of the “FanX® Salt Lake Comic Convention™ Anti-Harassment Policy” Reichs has in mind says —

CONFIDENTIALITY

FanX® Salt Lake Comic Convention will make every reasonable effort to protect the confidentiality of all parties involved in investigations of alleged harassment, intimidation, or discrimination. However, confidentiality is not absolute, and those with a legitimate business reason to know and be informed of the allegations will be informed. All parties in the investigation should treat the matter with discretion and respect for the reputations of all involved.

The FanX® Salt Lake Comic Convention Anti-Harassment policy prohibits retaliation against any member of the community for reporting harassment, intimidation, or discrimination. The sanctions for retaliation are the same as sanctions for any other form of harassment listed here.

And Reichs is among those who have cancelled their plans to appear at the con.

So is Gwenda Bond:

Dan Wells issued a warning:

Daniel Jose Older wrote:

As noted above, the convention has deleted the post containing Hale’s email address.

Update 05/21/2018: FanX has posted an expanded apology: “A Message from Bryan Brandenburg”.

I would like to apologize to Shannon Hale for the events that happened on Twitter today, and my overall handling of the reports of harassment from our last event. In an overly emotional state, I took to social media in response to a tweet that quoted an email exchange between the two of us. In doing so, I didn’t notice my screenshot still contained her personal email. This was overlooked and not meant maliciously.

I felt my comments were taken out of context from the original email exchange, and I responded hastily and inappropriately. I deeply regret sending the original email and the tweets that followed.

In response to my poorly chosen words about the #metoo movement being “trendy”, I came off insensitive to people’s pain, and I am sorry. After today’s events, I admit that I am not fully aware or educated about the importance of the #metoo movement, and this is something I am actively working to change. I need to improve on listening and making people feel validated.

Everyone working at FanX, including Dan and I, are still learning how to communicate about this serious and very important topic and to understand the sensitivity and different perspectives that come along with it. As a team, we want to learn how to do better.

Moving forward, our goal is to create a safe environment for everyone. Training for staff will happen within the next 90 days, so we are equipped to handle sexual harassment and assault reports. Our new harassment policy now includes instructions on how to report an incident anonymously or in person. It also clearly states the sanctions that will be taken when a report comes in.

The harassment policy also includes more defined behavior expectations for our attendees, guests, agents, cosplayers, panelists, moderators, staff, vendors, vendor models, and volunteers. Consent is key. These improvements would not have happened without your voice.

Both Sides Seek to Overturn Verdict in San Diego Comic-Con v Salt Lake Comic Con Lawsuit

Following a jury verdict that left the San Diego Comic-Con (the nominal winner) and Salt Lake Comic Con dissatisfied, both have filed post-trial motions seeking to have the result set aside.

A federal jury ruled in December that Salt Lake Comic Con infringed on a trademark held by San Diego Comic-Con by using the words “comic con” in their name without permission. However, the jury did not award the $12 million in damages sought by San Diego Comic-Con, only $20,000, finding no willful infringement of the copyright by SLCC.

SLCC organizers Daniel Farr and Bryan Brandenburg are asking U.S. District Judge Anthony Battaglia for a new trial, arguing that the court precluded important evidence and gave the jury improper instructions. (Read their motion for s new trial here.) The Hollywood Reporter adds —

They’re also renewing a motion for judgment as a matter of law on the issue of genericness. Battaglia in September indicated the mark may have become generic, but left the matter for a jury to decide, and he denied a similar motion made at the close of the trial. Now, Farr and Brandenburg are again asking him to reconsider and decide the issue himself.

(Read the motion about genericness here.)

SDCC seeks to overturn the jury’s decision for reasons of its own, unhappy that the jurors found that the infringement wasn’t willful, and awarded paltry damages. They are asking Judge Battaglia to either issue a judgment in their favor as a matter of law or, alternatively, to grant a new trial on the issues of wilfulness and damages.

SDCC attorney Callie Bjurstrom described the arguments to The Hollywood Reporter:

“SDCC argues that in view of the documentary evidence presented at trial and the testimony of Defendants’ witnesses, the only reasonable conclusion the jury could have reached was a finding of willfulness,” she writes. “SDCC further argues that rampant mistrial conduct by Defendants and their counsel, including impermissible and highly prejudicial statements made in opening and closing statements, as well as consistent evidentiary missteps that violated numerous prior Court orders, Defendants prevented the jury from reaching a reasonable conclusion on the issue of willfulness.”

Bjurstrom also says SDCC is asking the court to enter judgment as a matter of law that it is entitled to an award of the disgorgement of the Salt Lake event’s profits.

SDCC also wants a permanent injunction to bar Farr and Brandenburg from continuing to refer to the Salt Lake event as a “comic con.” (Read the motion here.)

And SDCC wants the court to award $4.5 million in attorneys’ fees and costs, because of the strength of the evidence presented about its trademark, and to punish the “unreasonable manner in which” Farr and Brandenburg defended themselves:

“Defendants admit they were aware of SDCC’s registered marks prior to selecting the infringing marks,” writes Herrera. “Defendants admit they never bothered to seek legal advice regarding the significance of SDCC’s federal trademark registrations. Defendants looked around and saw that others were using ‘comic con’ with and without a hyphen and assumed they could too.”

A hearing on the motions is currently set for May 3.

[Thanks to Dave Doering for the story.]

Pixel Scroll 12/11/17 You Ain’t Pixelin’ Dixie!

(1) DEFENDANTS COMMENT ON COMIC CON VERDICT. Bryan Brandenburg has this to say about the verdict in the SDCC v, SLCC lawsuit.

I woke up this morning facing a bright new future. The weight of the world has been lifted from Dan [Farr]’s and my shoulders. We have successfully cleared our names and lifted the cloud of accusation that has been surrounding us for 3 1/2 years.

– We were accused of stealing and hijacking. The jury said we were NOT GUILTY of this. There was no willful infringement.

– We were accused of trying to associate our convention with the San Diego convention. The jury said that we were NOT GUILTY of this. They found no evidence of false designation of origin.

– We were accused of causing $12,000,000 damage to the SDCC brand. They said we were the very worst offender. The jury found no evidence of damage. They awarded San Diego $20,000 in damages, less than .2% of what they asked for sending a clear message that we didn’t hurt the San Diego brand and this is what will be paid out for the worst of the 140 comic cons.

– We were accused of infringing San Diego’s trademarks, along with 140 other “infringers”…other conventions that call themselves “comic con”. The jury said that we were guilty. San Diego said, “They’re all infringers, that we and 140 other conventions that use the term comic con were guilty.” So for now they have 3 valid trademarks. We think that they will still lose “comic-con”. We’re proud to be lumped in with some of the finest comic cons in the country.

Dan and I have no regrets about standing up for ourselves when we took action after receiving a cease and desist. In hindsight, we would not have taken the car down to San Diego. For that we apologize to San Diego Comic Con. They are a great event with great people.

This process helped me realize once again that we truly have the best fans in the world. You have been there for us and it was comforting to have so many pulling for us. We are glad that we were able to clear our names at a minimum. But there are a lot of things moving in the background which I cannot talk about. All good things.

We own the trademark for FanX. There are over 140 comic cons and one FanX. That’s not a booby prize. If we needed to drop comic con from the name and just be FanX we have a trademark for that and a lot of positive brand awareness. Almost all the hundreds of thousands of people that have attended our events are familiar with that brand and name.

We’re not sure exactly how things will play out. We may change our name. We may appeal. But one thing is for certain. 2018 will be our best year yet….

(2) NEW LOGO. Bubonicon 50 takes place August 24-26, 2018 in Albuquerque, NM with Guests of Honor John Scalzi and Mary Robinette Kowal, Toastmaster Lee Moyer, and Guest Artist Eric Velhagen. Bubonicon 49 Toastmaster Ursula Vernon has created a special logo:

(3) THE CUTTING ROOM. I was very interested to learn How Star Wars was saved in the edit – speaking here about the original movie.

A video essay exploring how Star Wars’ editors recut and rearranged Star Wars: A New Hope to create the cinematic classic it became.

 

(4) EXPAND YOUR MASHUP WARDROBE. Still gift shopping? A lot of places online will be happy to sell you the shirt off their backs!

(5) LONG LIST ANTHOLOGY IS OUT. David Steffen announced the release of the Long List Anthology Volume 3, available as an ebook from Amazon and Kobo, in print from Amazon. He said more ebook vendors are in the works, including Barnes & Noble, iBooks, and others.

This is the third annual edition of the Long List Anthology. Every year, supporting members of WorldCon nominate their favorite stories first published during the previous year to determine the top five in each category for the final Hugo Award ballot. This is an anthology collecting more of the stories from that nomination list to get them to more readers

There are 20 stories in the volume – see the complete list at the link.

(6) BEYOND PATREON. Here’s the hybrid approach that The Digital Antiquarian will take in the aftermath of Patreon’s problems.

I’ll be rolling out a new pledging system for this site next week. Built on a platform called Memberful, it will let you pledge your support right from the site, without Patreon or anyone else inserting themselves into the conversation. The folks from Memberful have been great to communicate with, and I’m really excited about how this is shaping up. I think it’s going to be a great system that will work really well for many or most of you.

That said, my feeling after much vacillation over the last several days is that I won’t abandon Patreon either. Some of you doubtless would prefer to stay with them, for perfectly valid reasons: for high pledge amounts, the new fee schedule is much less onerous; some of you really like the ability to pledge per-article rather than on a monthly basis, which is something no other solution I’ve found — including Memberful — can quite duplicate; some of you really want to keep all of your pledges to creators integrated on the same site; etc. And of course it’s possible that Patreon will still do something to mitigate the enormous damage they did to their brand last week. At the risk of introducing a bit more complication, then, I think the best approach is just to clearly explain the pros and cons of the two options and leave the choice in your hands

(7) VIRTUAL BEST OF YEAR – FANTASY EDITION. Jason, at Featured Futures, has completed the set by posting his picks for the Web’s Best Fantasy #1 (2017 Stories).

As with Web’s Best Science Fiction, Web’s Best Fantasy is a 70,000 word “virtual anthology” selected from the fifteen webzines I’ve covered throughout the year, with the contents selected solely for their quality, allowing that some consideration is paid to having variety in the reading experience. The contents were sequenced as best I could with the same concern in mind.

(8) RATIFYING STURGEON’S LAW. Fanac.org has added “Lunacon 15 (1972) – Theodore Sturgeon Guest of Honor speech” to its YouTube channel, a 38-minute audiotape, enhanced with numerous images and photos (including two taken by Andrew Porter.)

Isaac Asimov introduces Theodore Sturgeon’s Guest of Honor speech at the 1972 Lunacon. There are corny puns and jokes from both of them, but primarily the talk is a serious, constructive discussion of Sturgeon’s “best beloved field”, and a defense against those that would marginalize and dismiss it. There are a few poignant minutes at the end about the (1972) US government amassing citizens’ private data, without any ability to challenge it. More than 40 years later, it’s still important, and worth listening.

 

(9) TODAY’S THING TO WORRY ABOUT. Andrew Porter draws our attention to the fact that the German film Münchhausen came out in 1943. As he sees it, “We could have a Nazi film under consideration for a retro-Hugo!”

The complete film is available on YouTube, with English subtitles.

(10) BILLINGS OBIT. Harold Billings (1931-2017), librarian, scholar, and author, died November 29. (The complete Austin American-Statesman obituary is here.)

He spent fifty years at the University of Texas general libraries, rising from cataloger to Director of General Libraries, a position he held for the last twenty-five years of his career. … Harold also edited and wrote extensively about authors Edward Dahlberg and M. P. Shiel. Reflecting a long time interest in Arthur Conan Doyle, in 2006 he received the Morley-Montgomery award for his essay The Materia Medica of Sherlock Holmes. In recent years, Harold had turned to supernatural literary fiction, authoring such stories as “A Dead Church”, “The Monk’s Bible”, and “The Daughters of Lilith”.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GIRL

  • Born December 11, 1922 — Maila Nurmi. (Vampira)

(12) HEROIC EFFORT. Reportedly, “New research finds that kids aged 4-6 perform better during boring tasks when dressed as Batman”. Hampus Eckerman says, “I’m sure this works for adults too.”

In other words, the more the child could distance him or herself from the temptation, the better the focus. “Children who were asked to reflect on the task as if they were another person were less likely to indulge in immediate gratification and more likely to work toward a relatively long-term goal,” the authors wrote in the study called “The “Batman Effect”: Improving Perseverance in Young Children,” published in Child Development.

(13) WITH ADDED SEASONING. Star Trek: The Jingle Generation.

(14) THAT FIGURES. This must be like Rule 34, only it’s Rule 1138: If it exists, something Star Wars has been made out of it. “Funko POP! Star Wars Trash Compactor Escape (Luke & Leia) Exclusive Vinyl Figure 2-Pack [Movie Moments]”.

(15) MORE MYCROFT. SFFWorld’s Mark Yon reviews The Will to Battle by Ada Palmer”.

Probably the thing I like the most about The Will to Battle is that we get to know in much more depth the inner workings of the political aspects of the world that Palmer has imagined. We learn much more about things that we have only seen mentioned before (the set-set riots or the difference between Blacklaws, Greylaws and Whitelaws, for instance) and we even witness a trial, a meeting of the Senate and the Olympic Games. I really enjoyed discovering how the author had planned with incredible care every little aspect and finding out that little details that seemed to be arbitrary are, in fact, of crucial importance.

(16) YOUNG UNIVERSE. Linked to this news before, but the Washington Post’s account is more colorful: “Scientists just found the oldest known black hole, and it’s a monster”

That hope is what drove Bañados, an astronomer at the Carnegie Observatories in California, to the Chilean mountaintop in March. It was not entirely clear whether he’d be able to find a quasar so far away. Supermassive black holes swallow up huge amounts of matter, squeezing the equivalent mass of several hundred thousand suns into a space so small that gravity wraps around it like an invisibility cloak and causes it to vanish. An object like that needs a long time to grow and more matter than might have been available in the young universe.

But the object Bañados and his colleagues discovered, called ULAS J1342+0928, was even bigger than they’d bargained for — suggesting that something might have made black holes grow more quickly. Scientists don’t yet know the underlying reasons for such rapid growth, or whether still older black holes are waiting to be found.

“This is what we are trying to push forward.” Bañados said. “At some point these shouldn’t exist. When is that point? We still don’t know.”

In a companion paper published in the Astrophysical Journal Letters, the scientists report another odd finding: The galaxy where ULAS J1342+0928 dwells was generating new stars “like crazy,” Bañados said. Objects the size of our sun were emerging 100 times as frequently as they do in our own galaxy today.

“To build stars you need dust,” Bañados said. “But it’s really hard to form all this dust in such little time on cosmic scales — that requires some generations of supernovae to explode.”

During the universe’s toddler years, there hadn’t been time for several rounds of stars living and dying. So where were the ingredients for all these new stars coming from?

(17) THE RISKS OF TALKING TO THE COPS. I saw Ken White’s  “Everybody Lies: FBI Edition” for Popehat linked by a FB friend and found it riveting. While it’s focused on criminal law, a lot of this advice is still good even if you’re only talking to someone about your taxes.

Dumbass, you don’t even know if you’re lying or not. When an FBI agent is interviewing you, assume that that agent is exquisitely prepared. They probably already have proof about the answer of half the questions they’re going to ask you. They have the receipts. They’ve listened to the tapes. They’ve read the emails. Recently. You, on the other hand, haven’t thought about Oh Yeah That Thing for months or years, and you routinely forget birthdays and names and whether you had a doctor’s appointment today and so forth. So, if you go in with “I’ll just tell the truth,” you’re going to start answering questions based on your cold-memory unrefreshed holistic general concept of the subject, like an impressionistic painting by a dim third-grader. Will you say “I really don’t remember” or “I would have to look at the emails” or “I’m not sure”? That would be smart. But we’ve established you’re not smart, because you’ve set out to tell the truth to the FBI. You’re dumb. So you’re going to answer questions incorrectly, through bad memory. Sometimes you’re going to go off on long detours and frolics based on entirely incorrect memories. You’re going to be incorrect about things you wouldn’t lie about if you remembered them. If you realize you got something wrong or that you may not be remembering right, you’re going to get flustered, because it’s the FBI, and remember even worse. But the FBI would never prosecute you for a false statement that was the result of a failed memory, right? Oh, my sweet country mouse. If you had talked to a lawyer first, that lawyer would have grilled you mercilessly for hours, helped you search for every potentially relevant document, reviewed every communication, inquired into every scenario, and dragged reliable memory kicking and screaming out the quicksand of your psyche.

(18) MRS. PEEL IS NO RELATION. Bananaman: The Musical is on stage at the Southwark Playhouse in the UK through January 20.

Bananaman is one of the flagship characters in the world’s longest running comic, The Beano. He was also the subject of the hugely popular TV cartoon that ran on the BBC during the 1980s. With a useless hero and some equally clueless villains, Bananaman’s riotously funny, slapstick humour has been sealed into the memories of those who saw him first, and will now spark the imagination of a new bunch of Bananafans.

In “A Call To Action” Marc Pickering is playing Bananaman’s nemesis Doctor Gloom. The song comes in the first half when Doctor Gloom is planning ways in which to deal with Bananaman who is thwarting his plans for world domination!!

(19) FIXED THAT FOR YOU. Damien Broderick says “A strange and terrible thing happened” with his book, now available in a modified 2018 version — Starlight Interviews: Conversations with a Science Fiction writer by Damien Broderick.

The first printing, also from Ramble House affiliate Surinam Turtle Press (owned by Dick Lupoff) turned out to have a botched variant of Russell Blackford’s chapter. My fault, I freely confess it! I only learned of this goof after I gave Russell his copy at the recent World Fantasy con in San Antonio.

Russell and I delved into the dark heart of several hard drives and managed to recompile his intended text. With the help of Chum Gavin, a repaired version of the book has now appeared on Amazon (although their website announcement has retained a mistaken pub date from earlier this year). If any Chum purchased a copy of the botched version, do let me know and I will hastily dispatch a Word doc of RB’s True Chapter. For those very few Chums who somehow forgot to rush their order for the book to Amazon, now is your near-Xmas chance to make good that lapse!

(20) OUTSIDE THE STORY. K. C. Alexander describes a variation on the classic writer’s advice in “Don’t Show, Don’t Tell”  at Fantasy-Faction.

You’re probably familiar with Welcome to Night Vale, so you’ll recognize the Night Vale Presents line in this incredible and fascinating podcast. The key difference, however, is this one presents more of a focused story, all delivered from a single point of view—Keisha; a truck driver (narrated by the matchless Jasika Nicole) searching for her dead wife. Named, naturally, Alice. (One other POV appears later in season, which I will not spoil here, but it is eerie af.) This is a creeping, haunting, sometimes lonely story about a heartbroken woman struggling with a mental illness—namely, a panic/anxiety disorder, and the paranoia and fear that comes with. After the death of her wife, an experience she was not there to witness, our fearful protagonist hires on with a long-haul trucking service to find answers.

Her story is narrated through snatches of narrative delivered on CB radio.

So what makes this podcast the keystone for “don’t show, don’t tell?”

It’s the outside stuff we never see. What’s going on outside her narration, what the people outside of our view are doing and why they are doing it. The ripples “shown” in Fink’s writing remain so subtle that you may not hear them, understand them, until your second or third listen. They are small ripples, hardly noticeable in black water, bringing with them an expertly woven sense of dread. But why? From where?

We don’t know.

(21) THE CLASSICS. The comments are fun, too. (If you need the reference explained like I did – clicketh here.)

(22) NETFLIX TRAILERS. New seasons for two genre shows on Netflix.

  • Sense8 — Finale Special First Look

  • Marvel’s Jessica Jones: She’s Back

Just don’t get in her way. Marvel’s Jessica Jones Season 2 coming March 8, only on Netflix.

 

(23) BEFORE THEY WERE FAMOUS. Marcus Errico, in “The secret history of ‘Christmas in the Stars,’ the bonkers ‘Star Wars’ holiday album co-starring Jon Bon Jovi” on Yahoo! Entertainment, discusses the super-cheesy and super-obscure Star Wars Christmas album that came out in 1980.

Unlike his previous cover-heavy albums, Meco started from scratch with the music. He and Bongiovi needed Star Wars-themed Christmas songs and they needed them fast, but they weren’t having much luck with the songwriters they approached. Enter a struggling composer named Maury Yeston, who was trying to put together the musical that would become Nine and could use some extra cash. “I met with Meco and I said, ‘Look, this may sound ridiculous to you, but if you want to do a Star Wars Christmas album you have to have a story,” Yeston told the CBC. “This is obviously Christmas in the world of Star Wars, which means this is in a galaxy far, far away, thousands of years ago. It’s not now. So call it Christmas in the Stars.” Meco was sold on the idea of the album having a through-line and recruited Yeston.

Yeston, who would go on to win a Tony Award for Nine and eventually write the smash Broadway musicals Titanic and Grand Hotel, cranked out nearly 20 Yule-appropriate tunes, nine of which made the final lineup. “The Meaning of Christmas,” minus Yoda, was radically retooled from the original version because Lucas didn’t want any of the traditional, religious-themed lyrics to be associated with the Force. It established the story of the album, set in a factory where droids make gifts for one “S. Claus.”

 

Playlist

[Thanks to JJ, Dave Doering, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Ed Fortune, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, Carl Slaughter, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kip W.]

Jury Decides in Favor of San Diego Comic-Con

A federal jury ruled today that Salt Lake Comic Con infringed on a trademark held by San Diego Comic-Con by using the words “comic con” in their name without permission. However, the jury did not award the $12 million in damages sought by San Diego Comic-Con, only $20,000, finding no willful infringement of the copyright by SLCC.

The case was tried in San Diego. Defendants Dan Farr and Bryan Brandenburg have said that if the verdict went against them, Salt Lake Comic Con would appeal to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. They have previously told the media the court battle will not affect their ability to put on the next convention, which draws more than 100,000 people to the Salt Palace.

Deseret News reporter McKenzie Romero tweeted some specifics about the jury’s determinations:

[Thanks to Dave Doering for the story.]

Salt Lake Comic Con Defendants Take the Stand

A federal jury has been hearing witness testimony this week in San Diego Comic-Con Inc.’s suit against Salt Lake Comic Con, accused of trademark infringement for using the term “comic con” in its name.

SLCC’s Dan Farr told Facebook followers on Wednesday:

I have been pretty silent about the lawsuit that Bryan [Brandenburg] and myself are involved in but today we ended witness testimonies. I wanted to express the gratitude I feel for all of the love and support we have felt because of all of the thoughts and prayers sent our way. We have received so many messages from people expressing positive thoughts that I can say that it honestly has given me strength and courage that I may not have had otherwise. I sincerely thank everyone for this support. I was very proud of Bryan’s testimony today and feel that he did a great job of telling our story and supporting our position in this. Tomorrow we will hear closing arguments from both sides and then the Jury will deliberate and potentially have an answer for us by the end of the day. Regardless of the outcome, I am so grateful for all of the love and support from everyone and the hard work that has gone into this by everyone involved.

The Deseret News covered Bryan Brandenburg’s appearance — “Salt Lake Comic Con organizer testifies he saw no trademark barrier to ‘comic con’ name”.

Although a Court of Appeals lifted the judge’s gag order on public statements, with the jury out of the room, an SDCC lawyer read one of Brandenburg’s social media posts to the judge —

The post announced that Brandenburg would take the witness stand to show that “comic con is owned by the people, by all the fans that experience the joy and celebration of comic con in cities all over the world.”

[Judge] Battaglia prohibited such arguments in the trial based on objections raised beforehand by San Diego. He warned that if Brandenburg intended to make any such statements during his testimony, “tell him to bring his toothbrush with him.”

The same applied to any of Salt Lake’s other witnesses, Battaglia indicated.

“I will put them in jail if they violate this order. They are not to escalate this case into a war involving the world,” Battaglia said.

When the jury returned, lawyers led Brandenburg through questioning:

As he and his new business partner considered starting a comic and pop culture convention in Utah in early 2013, Bryan Brandenburg fired up his computer.

He reviewed websites of other events, news stories about their conventions and online industry forums discussing them all.

What he found, he testified in court Wednesday, was inconsistency.

Varied spellings, differences in website designs and functionality, and distinct logos and themes all led Brandenburg to believe the events spread all across the country were all independent of each other, and many identified themselves as “comic cons.”

“It led me to believe we could call our company Salt Lake Comic Con,” Brandenburg testified.

…On cross examination Wednesday, Callie Bjurstrom, an attorney for San Diego, questioned Brandenburg on whether he reached out to anyone at San Diego Comic-Con to confirm whether they took issue with the name when Salt Lake chose it.

Brandenburg confirmed he did not.

She also presented two emails from Brandenburg, sent in the early days of Salt Lake Comic Con, discussing the businesses’ plan to “hijack” the popularity of comic con. One of the emails went on to clarify, “Comic con is just the abbreviation for comic convention.”

“Mr Brandenburg, that’s what you have done here, isn’t it? You have taken something that isn’t yours and you are using it for your own purposes, isn’t it?” Bjurstrom pressed.

“No, it is not,” Brandenburg replied.

Bjurstrom also alleged that Brandenburg didn’t do the research he talked about until after receiving the cease and desist order from San Diego Comic-Con. Brandenburg replied that was “absolutely not true.”

Trial began last week – highlights of the opening statement made by SDCC’s lawyer were reported by Courthouse News, including “She claimed the Utah organizers identified their convention as a comic con was a way to ‘steal the Comic-Con brand.’”

The defense rested Wednesday. Attorneys will make their closing arguments on Thursday, then the case will go to the jury.

[Thanks to Dave Doering for the story.]